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Anglo-China

Chinese People and British Rule


in Hong Kong 1841-1880
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Anglo-China
Chinese People and British Rule
in Hong Kong 1841-1880

Christopher Munn

Routledge
Taylor &. Francis Group

LONDON AND NEW YORK


First Published in 2001
by Curzon Press

Published 2013 by Routledge


2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN
711 Third Avenue, New York, NY, 10017, USA

Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business

© 2001 Christopher Munn


Typeset in Sabon by LaserScript Ltd, Mitcham, Surrey

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised
in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or
hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information
storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record of this book is available from the British Library
Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book has been requested

ISBN 13: 978-0-700-71298-4 (hbk)


For My Parents
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Contents

Acknowledgements ix
List o f Tables x
List o f Maps and Charts xi
List o f Plates xii
Romanization and Quotations xiii
A Note on Currencies and Values xiv

Introduction 1

PART ONE: Founding a Colony

CHAPTER 1 ‘Anglo-China’: The Opium War and the British


Acquisition of Hong Kong 21
CHAPTER 2 ‘Her Majesty’s Chinese Subjects’: Government and People
in Early British Hong Kong 53

PART TWO: Crime and Justice

CHAPTER 3 ‘Cheap, Summary and Sharp Justice’: The Early


Hong Kong Magistracy 109
CHAPTER 4 ‘A Mischievous Abomination’: Trial by Jury in Early
Colonial Hong Kong 160
CHAPTER 5 ‘Giving Justice a Second Chance’: Reforms to the Judicial
System, 1849-1857 204

PART THREE: Finding an Equilibrium

CHAPTER 6 ‘Treacherous and Reckless Barbarians’: War and


Civil Unrest, 1856-1858 257

vii
Contents

CHAPTER 7 ‘A Reign of Terror’: Corruption, Scandal, and the


CaldwellAffair,1857-1861 290
CHAPTER 8 ‘A Social Revolution’: Forming a Colonial Relationship,
the 1860sand Beyond 329
Conclusion 374

Notes 379
Bibliography 442
Index 453

viii
Acknowledgements

The Province of Ontario, the University of Toronto and the University of


Hong Kong generously gave me money to research and write the thesis
from which this book derives. Various libraries and archives kindly granted
me access to their materials. The staff at the following places were
particularly considerate: the Inter-Library Loans Section of the Robarts
Library, University of Toronto; the Special Collection of the University of
Hong Kong Library; the Manuscripts Room of the Cambridge University
Library; the Library of the School of Oriental and African Studies; the
Public Records Office, Hong Kong; and the Hong Kong Museum of
History. The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
and the Hong Kong Museum of History, Government of the HKSAR gave
permission for the illustrations in this book to be reproduced. Jocelyn
Scrymgeour, of Dunedin, New Zealand, kindly allowed me to quote from
the diary of her ancestor, John Wright.
Many friends have encouraged and advised me in the course of my work
on this book. Among them are Brenda Assael, Jerry Bannister, Kari
Bronaugh, Robert Bickers, John Carroll, Blaine Chiasson, Virginia Cross­
man, John Erni, Fung Chi-ming, Dan Healey, Steve Heathorn, Susanna
Hoe, Lucy Humbert, Milton Israel, Bernard Luk, Allyson May, Derek
Roebuck, Kim Salkeld, Sun Daigang, Tsai Jung-fang, Gavin Ure,
wannaPrasiT SunTaree and Peter Yeung. Friends at the Hong Kong
Monetary Authority have been warm and solicitous in encouraging me to
get the book out and into the shops.
My special thanks go to Tim Brook, Kenneth Chan, Robin McLeish,
Elizabeth Sinn, Carl Smith, Silvia Van Kirk and Peter Wesley-Smith, and to
my editor Jonathan Price. This book is dedicated to my parents, Patrick and
Lucy Munn, with love and thanks.

Hong Kong, June 2001

ix
List of Tables

3.1 Magistrates’ powers in Hong Kong, 1841-75 116


3.2 Selected cases before the Magistrates, 1850-70 133
8.1 Sentences imposed by the Police Magistrates, 1871-1890 348

x
List of Maps and Charts

Map A Hong Kong Island in the 1840s xvi


Map B The Hong Kong Region in the mid-nineteenth century xvii

2.1 Population of Hong Kong, 1841-1870 69


2.2 The Lower Bazaar on the eve of the great fire of 1851 77
3.1 Defendants before the Magistrates, Hong Kong, 1846-1875 112
3.2 Defendants before the Hong Kong Magistrates as a percentage
of population, 1846-1900 112
5.1 Defendants before the Magistracy and Supreme and Admiralty
Courts in Hong Kong, 1846-1857 210
5.2 Destinations of men transported from Hong Kong, 1844-1858 222
5.3 Hong Kong Supreme Court conviction rate, 1848-1870 244
8.1 Persons arrested and before the Magistrates for Breach of
Curfew, 1857-1890 347
8.2 Death sentences and hangings in Hong Kong, 1850-1870 351

xi
List of Plates

(Between pages 238 and 239)


1 Queen’s Road Central, looking west from Battery Point, c.1868.
2 Central District and Victoria Harbour viewed from Mid-Levels,
c.1875.
3 Sir John Francis Davis, Governor 1844-48.
4 Sir S. George Bonham, Governor 1848-1854.
5 Sir John Bowring, Governor 1854-1859.
6 Sir Hercules Robinson, Governor 1859-1865.
7 Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell, Governor 1866-1872.
8 Sir John Pope Hennessy, Governor 1877-1882.
9 William Caine, Chief Magistrate, Colonial Secretary, Deputy Governor,
with his two younger sons, taken in the late 1840s.
10 Charles Batten Hillier, Chief Magistrate in the early 1850s.
11 Taipingshan, the Chinese quarter, looking East, c.1868.
12 The Man Mo Temple with the Kung Soh, or ‘office’, c.1868.
13 A street scene c.1880.
14 The audience at a Chinese theatrical performance, c.1875.
15 Matshed and stalls at a Chinese festival (probably the Yu-lan Festival),
c.1868.
16 Lyndhurst Terrace, on the boundary of the European and Chinese
districts, decked out for the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh in 1869.
17 Opium smokers, late nineteenth century.
18 Petty offenders in the stocks, a punishment common from the 1870s
onwards.

xii
Romanization and Quotations

My aim has been to make the romanizations as unobtrusive as possible, to


avoid applying any single, rigid system that might produce jarring
anomalies, and to render Chinese words, as far as possible, in the sounds
in which they would probably have been heard at the time. Chinese words
have therefore been romanized according to the following principles:
1. Original romanizations, however unconventional by modern standards,
have been retained in all quotations. This has been made necessary anyway
by the fact that the original Chinese characters have generally not survived:
the romanizations themselves (having, in many cases, probably derived
from dialects other than standard Cantonese or Putonghua) are rarely clear
enough to allow those characters to be re-romanized with any precision.

2. Identifiable place names in H ong Kong, Kow loon and the N e w Territories
have been romanized from the Cantonese following current practices.

3. Nam es of people from the H ong Kong region taken from Chinese-
language sources have been romanized from the Cantonese according to
current practice in Hong Kong, which, with a few exceptions, is reasonably
standardized.

4. Terms and institutional names peculiar to colonial Hong Kong have been
romanized from the Cantonese according to com m on usage or according
to the Sidney Lau system.1

5. All other identifiable Chinese personal names, place names, and specialized
terms are in pinyin, with the exception of cities (such as Canton and Peking)
traditionally known in the English-speaking world by other romanizations.

Original spellings, capitals and italics have been retained in all quotations
from the English, and no emphasis has been added. Punctuation has, however,
been sparingly introduced or modified to conform with modern tastes.

xiii
A Note on Currencies and
Values

Several currencies circulated in early Hong Kong. Silver Mexican and


Spanish dollars (of roughly equal value) were the most common for the
purposes of trade. U.S. dollars also circulated at about the same value as
Mexican and Spanish. Government accounts were kept (and civil servants
paid) in sterling until 1862, when the Hong Kong silver dollar came into
being. Other currencies included East India Company rupees and Chinese
silver taels and copper cash. Although exchange rates were fixed by official
proclamation in 1842, real market values fluctuated from year to year. The
rough exchange rates, for the purpose of the fines, salaries, prices and other
figures recorded in this book, were as follows:
One dollar equalled about four shillings and twopence, 0.75 taels, or
2.25 rupees.
One pound equalled $4.80, or 3.33 taels, or about ten-and-a-half rupees.
One silver tael equalled $1.33, six shillings, or about three rupees.
A silver tael was theoretically divided into 1,000 copper cash, but, owing
to the rise in the value of silver, it might be valued at up to 2,000 cash.
About twenty-four cash equalled a penny, making about 5,760 cash to
the pound.
In the daily life of the colony, the purchasing power of these currencies was
roughly as follows:
A pound of rice cost a penny-halfpenny (30).
A pound of pork cost threepence (60).
A pipe of opium cost about 15 cash (just over 10).
A pound of cheese cost about two shillings (about 50#).
A bottle of wine cost about three shillings (about 750).
A quart of milk cost two shillings and threepence (540).
A gold watch was worth between $30 and $50.

xiv
/A Note on Currencies and Values

A small, European-style bungalow could be had at a rent of about $150


a month; a larger house, with four or five bedrooms went for about $250
per month.

Salary or wage for various occupations in mid-nineteenth-century Hong Kong

In dollars
Occupation Salary or wage per month

Governor & Plenipotentiary (1844) £ 6 ,0 0 0 p.a. $ 2 ,4 0 0


Chief Justice (1844) £3 ,0 0 0 p.a. $ 1 ,200
Colonial Secretary (1844) £ 1 ,80 0 p.a. $720
Attorney General (1844) £ 1 ,5 0 0 p.a. $600
Chief Magistrate (1844) £ 1 ,2 0 0 p.a. $480
European sailor on an opium clipper (1843) £8 per month $38
Chinese government clerk or interpreter (1855) £ 5 0 - £ l 5 0 p.a. $ 2 0 -$ 6 0
European constable, lowest grade (1855) £ 4 7 10s p.a. $19
Indian constable, lowest grade (1855) £ 2 0 p.a. $8
Chinese constable, lowest grade (1855) £13 15s p.a. $5.50
Chinese servant o f European, lowest grade £15 p.a. $6
Chinese labourer $ 2 -$ 4 per month $ 2 -$ 4

In 1843 the profits of one large mercantile house engaged in the opium trade
(probably Jardine M atheson & Co.) were reported to be £ 2 0 0 ,0 0 0 (just short of a
million dollars).

Sources: H ong Kong Blue Book, CO 133; China M ail, 1 M ay 1845, 4 2 -3 ;


Cunynghame, The O piu m War, 2 3 9 -4 0 ; various newspaper reports.

xv
I x"'~Nv
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offices North \Q u a r r y □ Settlements
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Map A Hong Kong Island in the 1840s


Da P eng

^ N a n to u

^Shenzhen

\
a Y u en L ong 1
Castle Q Kam Tin f
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T suen W an /r r > ^ a ‘
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Hong Kong w
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Jq Island J

jficheung-chau Boundary
^ Cape D'Aguilar .................in 1860
Lam m a\ '

Map B The Hong Kong Region in the mid-nineteenth century


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Introduction

‘At the present m oment/ wrote the fourth Governor of Hong Kong, Sir
John Bowring, in 1858,
the separation o f the native population from the European is nearly absolute.
Social intercourse between the races is w holly unknown. A few Chinese speak
a strange ‘jargon’ by which they are enabled to convey their ideas to
foreigners. I do not believe there is a single merchant or Tradesman in
Hongkong w ho speaks or understands the native dialect, w ho has seen a
Chinaman at his Table, or admitted him to the slightest confidential intimacy.
The influence o f the European settler upon the native mind may be said to be
nil.

The day-to-day practice of government in Hong Kong, Bowring had earlier


complained, was hindered by ‘the miserable want of functionaries - honest
functionaries - who can serve as proper channels of communication
between officials utterly ignorant of Chinese and natives utterly ignorant of
English.’ ‘There is,’ he concluded, ‘an absolute abyss between the governors
and the governed. We rule them in ignorance, and they submit in
blindness.’1
These remarks contain some exaggeration. The separation between
colonists and Chinese was never so absolute; and, as Bowring’s own
administration was to demonstrate, too often the submission of the Chinese
population had to be enforced through the barrel of a gun. But they embody
a familiar complaint about the gulf in understanding between the small
community of European colonists and ‘the vast and increasing mass of
Chinese population’ who were subject to British rule.2 The remarks are also
a striking indictment of Bowring’s failure in his aims as governor. As one of
Hong Kong’s most far-sighted of governors, Bowring had, in more
optimistic moods, believed it possible to build Hong Kong as a display-
case for the ‘superior civilization of the west,’ to bring to fruition the

1
Introduction

expansive vision of Hong Kong’s founders. According to this vision, Hong


Kong was to be not only the great emporium for the China trade, but also a
model of British good government, a living exhibition of European
civilization, a meeting point between east and west, where the manners,
institutions and technologies of both cultures would engage each other in a
productive and beneficial way. Early enthusiasts had christened this realm
of economic, political and cultural exchange ‘Anglo-China’, and had
nominated Hong Kong as its capital. During Bowring’s governorship, civil
war in southern China, and renewed war between Britain and China, had
helped advance Hong Kong as an emporium of trade. Yet exemplary good
government had proved so elusive that Bowring’s administration had all but
collapsed under a weight of corruption, scandal and inefficiency. As the
disorder in the region increased, Bowring confessed the utter inability of
British methods of justice to deal with the more serious crimes committed
within the jurisdiction of the colony’s courts. To cope with the emergencies
of war and popular unrest Bowring imposed repressive controls on the
Chinese population that amounted to little less than martial law.
As the colony’s Chinese population continued to grow, the ‘abyss
between the governors and the governed’ seemed wider than ever. Although
superficially cosmopolitan and undeniably prosperous, Hong Kong was, as
Bowring’s successor put it, a ‘grotesquely anomalous’ place, ‘officially as
well as socially ill at ease with itself.’3 The Anglo-China ideal, critics
complained, had fulfilled itself, not in any productive partnership between
East and West, but only in the ‘Anglo-Chino criminal conspiracies’ that
scandalized the press and parliament at this time.4 In 1858 the colony’s
main newspaper, the China Mail, summarized the bloated ineffectiveness of
the Hong Kong government in the following way:
With about 50 officials to govern five hundred merchants and not to govern
6 0 ,00 0 Chinese, w ho can wonder at disputes, with all our English, American,
French, Germans, Moormen, Parsees, merchants, storekeepers, opium-sellers,
gamblers and pirates, each under the supervision and control o f his ow n consul
or commander, Secretary or Protector, w ho in their turn are under the control
o f a Governor, w ho is under the control of a Secretary o f State? All these are
crowded together in a place about half as big as Hyde Park, and people at
home wonder that they fall out and fight, slander, and go to law perpetually.5

In contrast to the early integration of Chinese elites into Singapore’s system


of government, it took nearly three decades for the colonial government of
Hong Kong even to begin to establish stable and serviceable political links
with the leadership of the Chinese community and a further decade before
any Chinese was admitted to the formal organs of colonial power.
Whatever their disagreements on other issues, historians have tended to
agree with the China Mail's view that the early Hong Kong government left
the Chinese population very much to themselves. In the 1890s E.J. Eitel

2
Introduction

wrote of ‘an unbridged chasm’ separating ‘the outward social life of


Europeans and Chinese,’ though he stressed the underlying ‘communion of
interests and responsibilities’ of the two communities.6 In G.B. Endacott’s
influential formulation, the first two decades of colonial rule were an
experiment in ‘indirect rule’ giving way in the 1860s to a new policy of
non-discrimination and equality before the laws, which enabled a more
fruitful partnership between the races.7 Later historians have generally been
unimpressed by Endacott’s claim about the establishment of racial equality
in the mid-1860s.8 But they have adopted his paradigm of indirect rule as
the prelude for their studies of more extensive political engagement between
colonial government and Chinese people later in the century.9 The only
recent substantial study of Hong Kong during its early decades as a British
colony elaborates Endacott’s view of indirect rule, stresses the separation of
colonial government and Chinese society, and finds it possible to examine
the early Chinese community as a separate, almost autonomous entity.10
The idea persists in the official histories of the colony.11 As a generalization
about the state of affairs during these years, ‘indirect rule’ has much to
commend it. The colonial authorities did indeed leave much of the work of
government to the Chinese communities and made little effort to assimilate
the Chinese to British rule. Like many of the generalized formulas intended
to explain Hong Kong society, however, the paradigm of ‘indirect rule’
pastes over a great deal and tends to avoid, rather than explain, the colonial
relationship.
In early colonial Hong Kong a small European community was placed in
a direct political relationship with a growing Chinese populace without the
mediation from Chinese merchant elites or Chinese officials that had helped
to define and channel similar relationships in Singapore, pre-Opium War
Canton, and the treaty ports. Largely because of the gulf in understanding
between governors and governed, and because of the difficulties of
maintaining order in such a troubled region, the colonial authorities
attempted to subject the early population of Hong Kong to considerable
direct rule. While this interference did not necessarily promote under­
standing, and was apt to be resisted, avoided or subverted, it exerted a
considerable impact on people’s daily lives. Hong Kong possessed one of
the most top-heavy governments and one of the largest police forces in the
British Empire. It had a military and naval presence that was roughly
double the size of the civilian European population and was frequently
called upon to aid the civil authorities. Despite Hong Kong’s status as an
international free port, its internal trade was encumbered with monopolies,
licences, indirect taxes, and fees and charges, legal and illegal, of various
descriptions. Chinese residents were subject to a nightly curfew, to
registration schemes, to annual censuses and to police searches conducted
for a variety of purposes. They lived under a constantly changing,
labyrinthine system of intrusive regulatory laws and policing practices,

3
Introduction

which increasingly criminalized many daily activities and brought


thousands of people into direct contact with the police and the courts.
When, at the end of the nineteenth century, local leaders in the southern
part of Xin’an county sought to arouse resistance to the British acquisition
of the New Territories they could exploit these measures to play on widely
held anxieties
that under English law a poll tax w ould be collected; that houses w ould be
numbered and a charge made therefore; that fishing and wood-cutting would
be prohibited; that w om en and girls would be outraged; that births and deaths
would be registered; that cattle and pigs would be destroyed; that police
stations w ould be erected, which would ruin the Fung Shut of the place. In
short, that the evils that w ould arise would be so great that one could not bear
to think o f them .12

The ‘abyss’ that divided Europeans and Chinese in early colonial Hong
Kong was bridged by a tangled web of controls, crossed periodically by
campaigns of crude coercion, and straddled uneasily by a succession of
doubtful European officials and their Chinese collaborators.
This book probes the ‘abyss’ that separated governors and governed in
early colonial Hong Kong. It explores the workings of the complex and
fragile structures erected across it and investigates the activities of those
who inhabited its murkier regions. It attempts to explain how Hong Kong’s
early colonial government managed to rule a large, rapidly expanding,
unassimilated Chinese population under difficult conditions with tools that
seemed singularly ill designed for their task. It argues that, far from seeking
to leave the Chinese population to its own devices, the early colonial
government intruded into the lives of Chinese residents of the colony far
more than it did later in the nineteenth century, when Chinese elite
organizations took on many of the functions of government that had
proved so difficult for the colonial power. Rather than simply dismiss the
‘maintenance of law and order’ as the simple and unremarkable
qualification to a general policy of non-intervention, as many historians
do, it focuses on the uses of criminal justice by a government that sought
legitimacy in ‘equal laws’ and ‘impartial justice’ yet believed that the
solutions to the colony’s many problems lay in special forms of policing and
punishment for the Chinese population. The aim of the book is to fill a gap
in the history of the colonial relationship in nineteenth-century Hong Kong
and to introduce themes that were to play an important part in the relations
between government and people throughout Hong Kong’s history.

Histories of Nineteenth-Century Hong Kong


The few original histories of nineteenth-century Hong Kong may be divided
into three broad schools. A colonial school has, since the late nineteenth

4
Introduction

century, produced a series of general histories of Hong Kong written from


the point of view of the European colonial elite, sharing - and reinforcing -
many of the assumptions of that elite about the benevolent, progressive
nature of British rule. Since 1949 an opposing Marxist, nationalist
historical tradition based in Beijing has produced histories that are highly
critical of what its practitioners see as the exploitative, oppressive nature of
colonial rule and of the wider British imperialist aggression connected with
the colony. More recently, a diverse and growing body of historical research
has moved away from crude pro-colonial or anti-colonial narratives and
focused its study on the complex social and political dynamics of Hong
Kong and especially the experience of its Chinese community.
Various colonial versions of Hong Kong history were produced or
projected soon after the establishment of colonial rule.13 The earliest
substantial work, however, appeared in 1895, when E.J. Eitel produced
Europe in China: The History o f Hongkong from the Beginning to the Year
1882. Of German origin but naturalized as a British subject, Eitel was a
missionary, a prominent sinologist, private secretary to Governor Hennessy,
and inspector of schools in Hong Kong. Eitel sets his narrative within a
grand Hegelian vision of racial destiny and imperial fulfilment. Hong Kong,
he argues, was a central part of the ‘process of practical elaboration
through the combined forces of commerce, civilization and Christian
education’ of the ‘secret inchoative union of Europe and Asia.’ The Opium
Wars and the acquisition of Hong Kong were the means by which Great
Britain, ‘marching at the head of civilization’ reforged Europe’s former
humiliating relationship with China into ‘a happier reunion by a due
subordination of Asia to Europe.’ Hong Kong became ‘the vantage point
from which the Anglo-Saxon race has to work out its divine mission of
promoting the civilization of Europe in the East, and establishing the rule of
constitutional liberty on the continent of Asia.’ British governors succeeded
or failed according to how far ‘they marred or promoted the Colony’s
progress towards fulfilling its divine mission.’ Plagued by ‘war without and
dissensions within,’ Hong Kong was not, Eitel accepts, destined to become
‘a paradise of liberty’ overnight. The colony was unlucky in some of its
early governors, and ‘an unbridged chasm’ yawned between European and
Chinese communities. But out of the chaos and controversy of the early
years, the colonial relationship between Europeans and Chinese had
become clear: ‘the destiny of the one race is to rule and the fate of the other
to be ruled.’14
At about the same time, another colonial civil servant, J.W. Norton-
Kyshe (Registrar General of the Hong Kong Supreme Court) was compiling
his monumental History o f the Laws and Courts o f Hong Kong (1898).
This is a more eccentric work than its title suggests, and, in contrast to the
grand historical vision of Eitel, Norton-Kyshe’s view of Hong Kong history
is difficult to pin down: the only analysis in this chronological plagiarism of

5
Introduction

the colony’s early newspapers comes in the editorials and readers’ letters
that are pasted into the narrative word for word yet without attribution.
The vague notion in the preface that Hong Kong was ‘the starting point
from whence a civilizing power by its beneficent rule and humane laws was
to endeavour to effect those reforms which an uncivilized power like China
was ever in need of’ echoes Eitel’s view, but the detailed chronicle of scandal
and mismanagement in the work’s 1,300-odd tightly printed pages provides
little support for these claims.15
Another colonial civil servant, G.R. Sayer, produced two volumes in the
1930s: Hong Kong: Birth Adolescence and Coming o f Age (covering the
first 21 years of the colony’s history) and Hong Kong 1862-1919: Years o f
Discretion. The titles themselves set out the theme of growth and progress.
Sayer’s writings are among the more entertaining and digestible of the
colonial histories and take a less racially arrogant view of Hong Kong’s
destiny than do their Victorian predecessors. But they also advance a
process, already implicit in Norton-Kyshe and Eitel, of treating the colony
almost entirely as a European enterprise and of pushing the Chinese on the
island quite out of the picture. This process is completed in the works
produced in the 1950s and 1960s by Hong Kong’s first salaried historian,
G.B. Endacott, then professor of history at the University of Hong Kong.
The most important of these, Endacott’s History o f Hong Kong (1958), is a
distillation of governors’ despatches, colonial blue books and parliamentary
reports focusing on material development and constitutional change. The
History traces Hong Kong’s impressive growth as a great international port
under British tutelage: in it, the Chinese population feature as a largely
indistinct homogeneous mass, whose alternately ‘criminal’ and ‘co-operative’
tendencies turn them into a problem of colonial management. The problem
was not always easily resolved and was productive of many paradoxes.
‘The overwhelming Chinese character of Hong Kong and the need to
protect their interests have been the main factors in the delaying the
introduction of essentially Western ideas of political freedom,’ Endacott
concludes, in another work, on the political problems that have ‘taxed the
British genius for the application of empirical solutions.’16
The latest addition to the colonial canon largely continues this
effacement of the Chinese experience and, in its coverage of the nineteenth
century, focuses mainly on wars, military issues, and colonial anecdotes.
Frank Welsh’s History o f Hong Kong (1994) relies on a broader, more
imaginative body of research than the governors’ despatches and blue
books that formed Endacott’s staple sources. It is written with flair and with
an amusing sense of the incongruous. But it does not bring us much closer
to an understanding of the workings of government and society in early
Hong Kong. Its main function seems to be to produce a jocular celebration
of colonial life to reflect the mood of self-congratulation of the last few
heady years of British rule.

6
Introduction

In scope and methodology, the colonial narratives have a number of


characteristics in common. They devote considerable space to the pre­
history of colonial Hong Kong, early Sino-British contacts, the Canton
system, and the Opium War. Despite their narrow perspective, they claim to
provide a ‘general’ or ‘definitive’ view of Hong Kong history. They focus
on linear development, with chapters usually divided according to the terms
of office of governors. They generally exclude the Chinese population as
agents in history, except either as obstacles to the fulfilment of colonial aims
or as willing but subordinate partners. They also identify strongly with the
official view of Hong Kong history. Yet, despite their obvious limitations,
the colonial histories maintain a central importance in the historiography of
the colony. In the absence of any other original general histories of the
colony in the English language, they remain the ‘standard’ reference works
for many scholars. The narrative, issues, and material they present have
greatly influenced the terms on which other historical schools and other
academic disciplines have investigated and interpreted Hong Kong history.
They have provided the basic sources for a plethora of popular, tertiary
works on Hong Kong, ranging from illustrated chronologies to institutional
histories. They continue to be widely read, and many of them were reissued
in the 1970s and 1980s. Endacott’s much reprinted History remains the
standard work of reference. Welsh’s widely praised History, has become a
world best-seller.
Although diametrically opposed in ideological terms, and (for linguistic
reasons) speaking to an entirely different audience, the Beijing school has a
remarkable amount in common with the colonial school. Like the colonial
school, the Beijing school similarly favours official sources and statistics
and, though it is naturally critical of their ‘colonialist bias’, its practitioners
are heavily dependent on the research of colonial historians. The Beijing
School also devotes considerable space to the wars and ‘national
humiliations’ that produced Hong Kong, focuses heavily on economic
growth and formal political structures within Hong Kong, and produces
works that claim to be ‘standard’, or at least ‘outline’, histories of the
colony. The Beijing school stresses the general contribution of the Chinese
population to Hong Kong’s economic success, and dwells on the heroism of
those who resisted colonial rule. Like the colonial school, however, it treats
the Chinese population in terms of crude categories and has little to say
about the complexities of Chinese life or the experiences of ordinary people.
Although, until very recently, Hong Kong has received little attention from
mainland scholars as a subject independent of larger diplomatic or
economic narratives, the main elements of its history fit neatly into a crude
Marxist-Leninist view of imperialist expropriation, exploitation and
national humiliation.
The earliest full-length work devoted to the history of Hong Kong from
Beijing, Ding You’s Xianggang Chuqi Shihua 1841-1907 [‘Hong Kong’s

7
Introduction

Early History, 1841-1907’] (1958) tells a story of British military


aggression, legal discrimination against the Chinese, relentless police
repression, fiscal extraction, and exploitation of labour. ‘Hong Kong was
built and made prosperous on the blood, sweat and corpses of Chinese
coolies,’ Ding concludes.17 More recently, China’s resumption of the
exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong has stimulated a number of works
by mainland authors designed, in part, to foster a Chinese identity among
its Hong Kong readers. The most substantial of these is a two-volume
general history of the colony by historians based mainly at the Academy of
Social Science in Beijing. The volume on the nineteenth century, Shijiu Shiji
de Xianggang [‘Hong Kong in the Nineteenth Century’] is extensively
researched and thematically organized: its aim, according to its publishers,
is to redress a neglect of the colony by mainland historians and to respond
to what is seen as a need among Hong Kong people to know more about
their history in anticipation of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule.18
Although more temperate than Ding You in its criticisms of colonialism,
and willing even to see strengths in some of the colonial government’s
economic policies, this work continues the traditional preoccupation of
both mainland and colonial historians with the events leading up to the
acquisition of Hong Kong, Kowloon and the New Territories. At least a
third of the work is devoted to wars and diplomatic negotiations. The
starting point and unifying principle of the whole project, according to its
editors, is ‘that Hong Kong from the earliest times has been sacred Chinese
territory.’19 The main weakness of the book is that, while it stresses, largely
through statistics, the indispensable collective contribution of Chinese
people to the colony’s growth, and while it perhaps overstates the popular
resistance to colonial expansion, it says little about the activities, relation­
ships and conflicts within the Chinese communities or about the daily lives
and predicaments of ordinary people, who tend to appear simply as
sociological or statistical categories. Part of the problem is with sources:
beyond the official archives that form the staple primary sources, the book
draws mainly on the very colonial histories about which its editors express
deep reservations.20
Neither of the most recent substantial colonial and Beijing histories, by
Welsh and Yu & Liu respectively, has made much effort to synthesize the
very different body of Hong Kong history which has appeared over the last
two decades, and which has side-stepped, leapt over, or burrowed beneath
the narratives and categories of the colonial and Beijing schools. Although
its practitioners do not claim to be part of a historical ‘school’ and vary
considerably in their approach, a clearly defined Hong Kong school of
history has not so much taken the middle ground between the extremes
of the colonial and Beijing schools: it has instead asked entirely different
questions, opened up new fields of research, and introduced a view of
nineteenth-century Hong Kong that goes far beyond the increasingly sterile

8
Introduction

cycle of traditional narratives. This school takes Hong Kong and its people,
rather than colonial government or the diplomatic relations between China
and Britain, as its central subject of study. It addresses the dynamics of
society and politics within Hong Kong, introduces questions of race, class
and gender differences, and studies patterns of organization that do not fit
easily into traditional colonial structures. Although sceptical of the claims
of the colonial school, it is not obsessed with the question of colonial
oppression, and, unlike the Beijing school, it tends to see colonial rule more
as one component among many in the complex, often double-edged
relationships that organized Hong Kong society. China figures prominently
in the discussion of Hong Kong, not so much as a national entity, but as the
region beyond Hong Kong from which most of Hong Kong’s population
originates, as an important political and cultural influence on the colony,
and as a source of tension and conflict. The Hong Kong school makes wide
use of previously untapped sources, particularly Chinese-language sources,
and deploys the traditional colonial sources in a new and more critical way.
It also tends to be analytical and monographical, rather than narrative and
comprehensive, in its approach.
The sociologist Henry Lethbridge was perhaps the originator of this
approach, and many of the questions he asked about early Hong Kong
society have become the inspiration for larger, more empirical studies.
These include questions about how Chinese society in Hong Kong managed
its affairs outside the formal organs of colonial government; how far
bureaucratic corruption affected the workings of government; and how the
colonial elite used racism, class, and snobbery to define and regulate itself.
These questions, many of them inspired by contemporary sociological
theory, were raised, rather than fully answered, in a series of short and pithy
essays collected in 1978 under the title Hong Kong: Stability and Change.
Throughout the sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties, a more sustained
and painstaking research into early Hong Kong society was undertaken by
the theologian, Carl T. Smith, who has applied a genealogical training to
the task of piecing together the lives and pursuits of Hong Kong’s early
Chinese elites and middlemen. This has involved combing through
extensive official correspondence, missionary archives, land records, wills,
newspapers, and personal accounts, and reassembling the fragmented
references to the lives of ordinary people into new patterns that more
convincingly reflect the choices and experiences of those at the receiving
end of colonial rule. The most substantial product of this research, Chinese
Christians: Elites, Middlemen, and the Church in Hong Kong (1985),
demonstrates the economic and political importance of Chinese elites and
middlemen in the early colony. It also entirely subverts the old assumption
that the Chinese population of Hong Kong was composed merely of
transients or sojourners. In this work governors, officials and European
merchants fade into the distance, while men and women, prominent in the

9
Introduction

Chinese community but unheard of in most colonial and Beijing narratives,


are sharply defined as actors rather than as voices off-stage. The resulting
picture is not that of a passive Chinese community thriving under British
tutelage but one of men and women using the machinery of colonialism to
promote a variety of careers and interests.
Elizabeth Sinn has advanced the understanding of the role and influence
of Chinese elites in early colonial Hong Kong by investigating the growth
and functions of the charitable and quasi-political institutions managed by
them. In Power and Charity: The Early History o f the Tung Wah Hospital,
Hong Kong (1989) Sinn uses the extensive and hitherto untouched archives
of the Tung Wah Hospital to show the considerable importance of the early
Hospital as the unofficial centre of Chinese political power in late
nineteenth-century Hong Kong. Sinn traces the functions of the Hospital
during its heyday in the 1870s and 1880s and during its decline in prestige
later in the century, as its ability to mediate between the colonial
government and an increasingly alienated labouring population faded.
Chan Wai-kwan, in The Making o f Hong Kong Society: Three Studies of
Class Formation in Early Hong Kong (1991), further explores the dimension
of class in an examination of the formation of a European merchant class, a
Chinese merchant class, and a Chinese labouring class spanning the
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Chan argues that, ultimately, class
divisions within Chinese society became more important than the racial
cleavage between Europeans and Chinese, as the common interests of the
Chinese and European merchant elites increasingly distanced Chinese
merchants from the politically marginalized labouring class. Class division,
Chan suggests, reached a pitch during the seamen’s strike of 1922, in which
seamen and other trades successfully used class solidarity to extract
concessions from a now entirely adversarial Chinese merchant elite.
The most recent major study from the Hong Kong school, Jung-fang
Tsai’s Hong Kong in Chinese History: Community and Social Unrest in the
British Colony, 1842-1913 (1993) both synthesizes earlier research in the
field (particularly by Smith and Sinn) and produces new research on social,
political and racial conflict within Hong Kong. It focuses on the livelihood
of the labouring class, the development of community, the fracturing of the
Chinese elite into conservative and western-oriented groups, and the
influence on popular protest in the colony of nationalism and other political
movements in China. In a detailed examination of the many political
confrontations and protests in the colony during the first half of British rule,
Tsai discards the traditional colonial ‘story of continuous growth and
stability with a politically apathetic Chinese population’ and presents in its
place a tense and ambivalent colonial relationship characterized by
collaboration and partnership on the one hand and increasing social crisis
on the other.21 Tsai points out the readiness of the colony’s Chinese
labouring masses to protest against intrusive government measures but

10
Introduction

stresses that a conservative realism and a preoccupation with livelihood


prevailed over larger class or national consciousness, despite the growing
politicization of all sectors of the Chinese population in the early decades of
the twentieth century.
The Hong Kong school’s main emphasis is on the Chinese population of
the colony and on the importance of Chinese agency in the colony’s political
and social development. Again, in contrast to the colonial school, it stresses
conflict and change, rather than stability and growth, and, in contrast to the
Beijing school, it complicates what might appear to be a simple colonial
relationship by bringing in problems of class, and of antagonism and
competition within the Chinese elite. The chronological centre of gravity of
the Hong Kong school, and the area in which it has produced its most
original research, tends to be the late nineteenth century, a period of
considerable political change and conflict, and the period in which the
Chinese merchant elite came into its own. The early thirty years or so of
British rule feature in introductory chapters only as a kind of chaotic
prelude to the political engagement and conflict later in the century, and
have not been subjected to such intensive study. Nor, since the studies by
Eitel and Sayer several generations ago has any sustained study of this
formative period in Hong Kong history been produced in English. This
book attempts to help fill this historiographical gap by examining the early
period of colonial history in Hong Kong, when the racial and cultural
divide between colonists and colonized prevailed over class differences, and
when the problems of government were deepened by the absence of
dependable local elites and their political organizations.

The Organization and Themes of this Book


The book is divided into three sections, which follow a broad chronological
progression. Part One examines the conditions in which the colony was
founded and addresses the aims, methods and problems of its early
government. This section introduces some of the contradictions between
colonial rhetoric and the early experience of colonial rule that were to exert
an important influence over the colonial debate about how the Chinese
population should be governed. Chapter One links the high expectations
entertained of the colony by its founders to the extravagant rhetoric of
civilization and liberation that grew out of the expanding war between
Britain and China in the early 1840s. The clash between this rhetoric and
what colonial opinion increasingly perceived to be the problems of
governing Hong Kong’s large, migrant Chinese population becomes the
organizing theme in the remainder of the book. Chapter Two examines the
early problems of government by exploring the alienation between the tiny
European colonial community and the Chinese population. This alienation
was aggravated by the legacy of war, the absence of reliable collaborators,

11
Introduction

the prevalence of crime and disorder in the region, and resistance to


attempts by the new colonial government to raise revenue and manage the
island’s scant land resources. The issues of collaboration and resistance
raised in this chapter serve as background to the study of the administration
of criminal law in Section Two of the book.
Part Two explores the most extensive and most neglected area of
engagement between government and people in early colonial Hong Kong,
the criminal justice system. It focuses mainly on the formative years of the
late 1840s and 1850s. Chapter Three addresses the extraordinarily high rate
of prosecution before the colony’s Magistracy and links this not just to the
high crime rate in the early colony but also to the gross inefficiency of
the colonial police and the lack of success in crime prevention. It examines
the caseload and punishments of the early Magistracy and the complaints
by contemporary critics that its rough and indiscriminate methods were not
only failing to address serious problems of crime but were also driving away
the respectable, wealthy Chinese that the colony needed for its viability. The
chapter concludes that a general criminalization of the Chinese community
took place in the assumptions of officials, in the creation of new offences
applicable only to Chinese residents, and in the wide net cast by both police
and Magistracy. Chapter Four examines the problems encountered in the
early decision to dispense with the British Indian tradition of making native
defendants accused of serious crimes amenable to native courts. The Hong
Kong government applied the full apparatus of English trial by jury to the
mainly Chinese defendants taken up on serious criminal charges from
within the colony and from the large maritime region beyond. The chapter
argues that racial bias and problems with evidence fostered a system of
justice that not only contradicted official claims about equal laws and
humane justice but also failed to produce the convictions that the colonial
community deemed necessary to deter crime. Chapter Five explains how
these and other difficulties prompted the government to introduce radical
reforms to restrict the rights of defendants, loosen rules of evidence, and
increase its reliance on the lower courts and on sending difficult cases to the
Chinese authorities.
Part Three discusses the convulsions brought about in the late 1850s by
rapid population growth, civil unrest, renewed war and pervasive
misgovernment. It also traces the beginnings, in the 1860s and 1870s, of
a more stable and systematic alliance between colonial government and
Chinese merchant elite. This alliance was made possible by the presence in
the colony for the first time of a settled, identifiable and self-conscious
Chinese elite. It was also fostered by growing identity of economic and
political interests between this elite and the colonial power and by a
common desire to control the colony’s large labouring population.
Chapter Six discusses the civil unrest that arose in the mid-1850s from
rapid population increase, incompetent policing and other problems, and

12
Introduction

the anti-European resistance and terrorism that shook the colonial


community during the Second Opium War. It explains how, at a time
when the arrival in the colony for the first time of substantial Chinese
merchants offered hope for a productive partnership between colonial
government and Chinese community, problems of allegiance and civil
unrest prompted the government to introduce further repressive measures
in its attempt to control the Chinese population. The resultant powers
concentrated into the hands of the colonial government’s main European
intermediary with the Chinese community, Daniel Caldwell, gave rise to
serious questions of corruption and abuse of power, which are traced in
Chapter Seven. This chapter further examines the difficulties the colonial
government faced in its reliance on narrow collaboration, and uses the
Caldwell scandal of the late 1850s to explore how easily, under this system,
the institutions of British power, could be abused and subverted through a
mixture of gangsterism and official corruption. The scandal also becomes a
focus for the racial anxieties and political tensions that had accumulated in
the colonial community. Chapter Eight discusses how in the 1860s and
1870s the foundations of the alliance between colonial government and the
now well established Chinese merchant elite were laid through the
empowerment of Chinese political organizations and the deepening of
policing measures designed to control the labouring classes. These measures
increasingly exempted the settled, respectable, wealthy portion of the
Chinese community and enlisted their support in enforcing them. This
class-based alliance formed the political foundation for the various forms of
oligarchic government that served the colony for the remainder of the
nineteenth century and beyond.
The themes explored in this book owe much to the studies of colonialism
and imperialism in other places by other historians. The broad influence of
Edward Said and his school appears in the examination of colonial rhetoric
in Chapter One and in the importance of representations of ‘the oriental’ -
in this case, of ‘the Chinese character’ - in the formulation of government
responses and policies throughout the book. Here, colonial representations
of the Chinese in the colony as an undifferentiated mass, and notions of
inherent ‘Asiatic’ dishonesty and criminality, become especially important
in considering a system of criminal justice that was administered by
Europeans to a mainly Chinese population. An effort is made, however, to
forge a clearer connection between the rhetoric of British rule with the
immediate experience of British rule than either Said or his school, with
their much broader studies, find it necessary to present. In particular, I try
to link the evolution of government policies with the alternating rhetoric of
optimism and disillusion contained in much of the debate on early Hong
Kong. This is not simply a crude attempt to expose the discrepancies
between official rhetoric and daily reality. Rather, the aim is to place the
colonial debate about the practical problems of governing the Chinese

13
Introduction

population within a larger colonial and imperial ideology dependent on


assumptions about European superiority and about the ‘character’ of
Chinese people. Similarly, questions of collaboration and resistance, so
often neglected by the Said school, appear here at the centre of the problem
of colonial rule.
The idea that imperialism is a function of indigenous collaboration, and
not merely of western expansion, has, since Ronald Robinson sketched out
his theory of indigenous collaboration in 1972, become an essential
explanation of the methods of colonial rule. The uses of the colonial
relationship to indigenous collaborators are, conversely, a central theme in
the recent studies of nineteenth-century Hong Kong by Smith, Sinn, Chan
and Tsai. The mutually beneficial collaboration between British imperialism
and Chinese capitalism stands out in studies by Yen-ping Hao of the
compradors in treaty port China and by Carl Trocki of the growth of
the opium monopoly in Singapore. Its opposite - indigenous resistance to
colonial rule - has been an equally important theme in the subaltern school
of Indian history, in the Beijing school of Hong Kong history, and in the
studies of less overt forms of daily resistance by James Scott. As Jung-fang
Tsai demonstrates, these themes, in all their subtlety and ambivalence, come
out strongly in the blend of co-operation and protest that characterized the
Chinese handling of colonial rule in late nineteenth-century Hong Kong.
Although the same forms of resistance and collaboration can be found in
the early decades of colonial rule the application of these terms in this book
requires some qualification and explanation.
Because Hong Kong was the product of war, and because it initially
lacked both indigenous collaborators and effective immigrant collaborators
of the kind who proved so useful to the British in Singapore, political
‘collaboration’ in early Hong Kong, where it was achieved, emerged either
out of the narrower field of war collaboration, when the British attempted
to settle and empower its former war collaborators, or out of attempts to
handle the Chinese population through selected informants and power-
brokers. The problems thrown up by such policies are discussed in Chapters
Two and Seven: the more effective collaborators - an identifiable, stable,
influential, and ‘respectable’ Chinese elite emerging out of the Chinese
community rather than imposed upon it - came much later in Hong Kong
than they did elsewhere, and their political power was not established until
at least the opening of the Tung Wah Hospital in 1870. A further
qualification in the Hong Kong case (and one no doubt applicable to many
other colonial situations) is the presence of resistance within schemes of
collaboration. This was important both in the attempts by the government
to secure revenue through Chinese tax farmers, who simultaneously helped
and resisted the government in its attempts to maximize revenue. It is
present in the strategies by the managers of the Tung Wah Hospital and its
off-shoot the Po Leung Kuk to take out of colonial hands the management

14
Introduction

of the mui tsai (or female bondservant) issue and abuses in the coolie trade,
and to redefine these problems in ways that suited the interests of the
patriarchal Chinese merchant elite.
The subject of outright resistance raises other problems. Jung-fang Tsai
has shown the dangers of reducing all forms of resistance against colonial
rule to expressions of popular nationalism, a problem inherent in the
Beijing school’s interpretation of conflict and protest in the colony. Chapter
Six of this book attempts to illustrate the complexities of resistance and
non-resistance in the Hong Kong region during the Second Opium War.
Chapters Two and Four, in their discussions of revenue farmers and
malicious prosecutions, and Chapter Seven, in its account of the ‘hijacking’
of British naval power by a notorious gangster-collaborator, argue that
some of the most troubling challenges to colonial rule came not from overt
protest (which could be quickly put down by military force) but from the
activities of those who sought to use, or abuse, the trappings, institutions
and protections of colonial rule for the purposes of furthering disputes or
schemes quite unconnected with colonial rule. The discussion of this
phenomenon and of the ‘corrupting’ effects that colonial commentators
believed it exerted on British institutions takes further Tsai’s emphasis on
the ambivalence towards British rule among many Chinese. It also
underlines the limitations on the power of the colonial state and illustrates
what Nicholas Dirks refers to as the ‘ill-co-ordinated nature of power’ in a
colonial setting.22 In the case of Hong Kong, naval and military superiority
enabled the British to win wars, exterminate massive pirate fleets, and put
down street demonstrations without much difficulty. Yet poor communi­
cation and a general failure to penetrate Chinese structures of power made
the daily policing of the colony, and especially the administration of the
more complex forms of English justice, more problematic. The migratory
nature of much of the colony’s population, and the powerful social and
political ties between Chinese in the colony and communities on the
mainland nearby added a further dimension to resistance in Hong Kong:
boycotts, mass exoduses and bashi (or general shut-downs), already a
feature of Chinese urban life, occurred perhaps in their most extreme form
and presented colonial rulers with their most unmanageable form of
popular protest.
This migratoriness raises two further themes: the desire among colonial
rulers for a settled Chinese population, and the urge to monitor and classify
the population through registration, censuses and other tools. The desire for
stationary, governable populations is a common theme in colonial history
and can be traced, for example, in attempts by colonial governments and
missionaries to domesticate ‘criminal tribes’ in northern India or to
Europeanize native groups in British Columbia by placing them in settled
villages.23 The ‘constantly shifting’ nature of Hong Kong’s early Chinese
population and the association colonists made between transitoriness and

15
Introduction

criminality were important factors in the alienation between the tiny


colonial community and the rapidly growing Chinese community during
these early decades. They also enabled the colonial government to justify
extraordinary and repressive measures to cope with a population that it
considered to be neither British nor indigenous. Crude efforts to contain
and manage this population, through such measures as curfews and
registration, and the colonial desire to understand and classify the
population through annual censuses and various forms of surveillance
became important features of life in the colony. Like the effects of census
statistics on perceptions of caste in British India, these measures also
influenced the way in which society developed.24 Having initially repelled
‘respectable’ and wealthy Chinese settlers because of their crudeness, such
measures gradually exempted the wealthier, more established Chinese from
their provisions. Further prohibitions on labour combinations made
special arrangements for elite organizations. Policing schemes intended to
combat vagrancy increasingly enlisted the support of the Chinese merchant
elite.
The colonial government’s use of the criminal law to manage the Chinese
population during these early decades was a measure of the difficulties it
faced in finding effective collaborators. The role of law in the process of
colonization has at last become a topic of historical study.25 In the Asian
colonial experience these studies have tended to concentrate more on the
colonization of indigenous forms of law through codification and
reinterpretation, on experiments with utilitarianism, or on the effects of
law on property ownership and family relations. Such studies reflect the
experience in the Indian subcontinent of a pluralistic dependence on
indigenous systems and of a very gradual application of new forms of law.
Hong Kong, in contrast, was an extreme, if not unique, case in the Asian
colonial experience because its colonial rulers, having rejected the
possibility of allowing Chinese officials to administer Chinese law to the
colony’s Chinese population, decided to import the full apparatus of
English law into the colony at a very early date. English law was extended
not only to the Chinese population of the colony but also to alleged
criminals, most of them Chinese, brought in from the vast maritime
jurisdiction claimed by the colony’s higher courts. The many problems of
administering complex English law to a largely non-resident and
uncomprehending Chinese population encouraged the colonial government
to back away from the purer forms of English justice, to fall back on
‘Chinese punishments’ and summary forms of justice, and, increasingly, to
rely on the Chinese government to handle its more difficult cases. Although
trial by jury was never abolished in Hong Kong (and, in contrast to its fate
in many postcolonial societies, is now guaranteed by a law of the People’s
Republic of China), its uses were increasingly circumscribed as the colonial
authorities, backed by colonial opinion, deemed it unsuited to an unsettled

16
Introduction

Chinese population. Part Two of this book explores this process. Rather,
however, than produce dry legal history, it attempts, through an extensive
study of court reports, to capture the experience of some of the tens of
thousands of ordinary Chinese people brought before the colony’s early
criminal courts.
The frequent resort of the colonial government to the criminal law leads
to two further themes: the readiness of the authorities to equip themselves
with emergency powers during crises and a corresponding reluctance to
dispense with those powers once the crises had subsided. That serious crises
emerged during the early decades of British rule in Hong Kong is not in
question. War, terrorism and crime made it natural that the colonial
government, given its lack of communication and identity with the Chinese
population, should find it necessary to equip itself with emergency powers,
although the tendency of some officials (such as Caine in the 1850s and
MacDonnell in the 1860s) to exaggerate the emergencies facing the colony
is interesting. The main significance of the emergency measures is that they
were cumulative. The residue they left behind became naturalized into
colonial life, and they tended to be repealed long after their original uses
had been served. In this way the curfews on Chinese inhabitants introduced
to control crime in the 1840s and terrorism in the late 1850s were found to
be so comforting to colonists that they were maintained almost to the end
of the nineteenth century. Over the decades, anti-triad legislation
introduced initially to combat crime and to please the Chinese government
became elaborated into laws for the control or suppression of trade unions.
The practice of using emergency powers and passing emergency legislation
to address problems of government became a habit of the colonial
government, which was brought under control only in the final decades of
British rule.26
Colonial emergencies, non-co-operation from the neighbouring Chinese
authorities, and a migratory population made it essential for the early
colonial government to seek to differentiate the colony’s population, as well
as its economy and political system, from that of mainland China in order
for the colony to survive. This paramount imperative is perhaps the single
important political theme throughout Hong Kong’s history. During the
early decades of British rule the policies to maintain this differentiation
from, and containment of, China were still emerging, as the government
experimented with successive registration, deportation and anti-vagrancy
schemes. The problems in establishing this differentiation in population,
and the need to balance immigration control against the desire for Chinese
settlers and cheap labour, were a constant preoccupation of the early
colonial government. To some extent, the process of drawing clear
boundaries between colonial and Chinese jurisdictions worked itself out
during this period, though it was complicated both by the continuing non-
co-operation of the Chinese authorities and by the colonial government’s

17
Introduction

growing dependence on the Chinese authorities in handling the problems of


piracy and vagrancy. These themes appear both in the rhetoric and practice
of colonial government during this period and are particularly prominent in
the discussions in Chapters One and Two and in the examination of
criminal justice in Section Two.
The subject of this book is a colonial relationship, by which is meant an
unequal, partly antagonistic and partly co-operative power relationship
between members of two ethnically distinct groups, one foreign and the
other indigenous, taking place in a territory over which the former of those
groups seeks to exert political control. The aim of this book is to help
re-establish the colonial relationship in early Hong Kong as a subject of
study, but also to examine that relationship in a critical way. It places the
administration of criminal justice close to the centre of that relationship
rather than conferring on it the usual exemption from close scrutiny. It
attempts to understand the effects of colonial rule on ordinary people in
and around the colony and the effects of their activities on the development
of colonial rule. Colonial rule is presented here, not as some bundle of
abstract policies handed down from above according to the exigencies of
the time, but as an array of daily relationships continuously negotiated
through confrontation and compromise, at home and at work, in the courts
and on the streets. In focusing on the acutely problematic colonial
relationship of these years, and in distilling three decades of crisis and
confrontation into a few hundred pages, this book necessarily presents a
dark view of Hong Kong society. It perhaps understates the more
productive cross-cultural relationships that emerged out of the colony even
during this early period, and risks giving the impression that colonial rule
was unrelievedly oppressive. The studies by Carl T. Smith, Elizabeth Sinn
and others of the many ways in which Chinese people in Hong Kong found
protection and opportunities under colonial rule supply a ready corrective
to this impression. They remind us that for most of the time ordinary people
probably managed to navigate their lives around the mesh of'restrictions
and obstacles put up by the colonial government, and that extraordinary
people managed to do extremely well in the colony. Nevertheless, many
thousands of people became caught by those meshes and obstacles, and
their experience is part of the history of Hong Kong.

18
P A RT O N E

Founding a Colony
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CHAPTER 1

'Anglo-China': The Opium War


and the British Acquisition of
Hong Kong

A sort o f hallucination seems to have seized those w h o built houses here; they
thought that H on g K ong w o u ld rapidly out-rival Singapore, and becom e the
Tyre or Carthage o f the eastern hemisphere. Three years' residence, and the
experience thence derived, have materially sobered their views. Unfortunately
the G overn m en t o f the colony fostered the delusion respecting the colony.
The leading G overn m en t officers bought land, built houses or bazaars, which
they rented out at high rates, and the public m oney was lavished in the m ost
extraordinary manner; building up, and pulling d o w n tem porary structures,
m aking zig-zag bridle-paths over the hills and mountains, and forming the
‘Q u e e n ’s R o a d ’ o f a bo u t three to four miles long, on which abo u t 18 0 ,0 0 0
dollars have been expended, but which is n ot passable for h alf the year. The
straggling settlem ent called Victoria, built along the (Q u e e n ’s R o a d ,’ was
dignified w ith the name o f ‘c i t y a n d it w as declared on the highest
authority, that H o n g K ong w o u ld contain a p opu lation ‘equal to that o f
ancient R o m e .’
(Robert Montgomery Martin, Colonial Treasurer, July 1 8 4 4 )1

The early promoters of Hong Kong talked in extravagant terms about their
tiny new island colony. Hong Kong, wrote its future governor, John Francis
Davis, after the dust of the Opium War had settled, now gave the British an
opportunity to ‘surprise the Chinese by shewing them the Miracles of peace
as well as of War’
The ‘Schoolmaster’ is indeed ‘abroad’, and may now carry his lessons to the
doors o f those w ho never yet left home. There is a real British colony (no
Portuguese counterfeit) planted on the very threshold of China. There they
may see commerce flourishing in the absence of restrictions, property and
person secure under the protection of equal laws, and, in a word, all the best
fruits of science and civilization transplanted direct from the European

21
Founding a Colony

headquarters. The good or evil we may do there will, by the law o f inevitable
necessity, react upon ourselves.2

This remotest of Britain’s colonies was to be a ‘little miniature


representative5 of all that was good and progressive in the mother country.
A sharp observer in London, Captain Grindlay, poring over maps of the
British operations during the war, drew attention to the remarkable fact
that, even in its physical shape, Hong Kong was a ‘perfect miniature’ of the
British Isles.3 Even Qiying, the Chinese Commissioner who had signed
away the island to the British, declared, on his officials visit to the new
colony in June 1843, that it resembled a ‘little England’ or a ‘little Britain’.4
‘You have done wonders, not by degrees, but in an instant,’ he remarked to
the Commander of the garrison in Hong Kong on another visit a few years
later. ‘Your city has sprung out of the Earth like a Child new born.’5
These were convivial visits, in which the jovial, aristocratic Qiying
hammed it up for his delighted British hosts: he had reportedly made the
remark about a ‘little England’ on board Her Majesty’s Steamship Akbar on
a tour around Hong Kong island, during which he and his assistants had
been ‘stretched at full length on the deck nearly the whole time, vomiting
most freely’ after a night of drinking and singing with Governor Pottinger
and his officials. Pottinger thought that he had formed a real emotional
bond with Qiying.6 Yet no amount of bonhomie and ‘jollification’ (nor
Qiying’s own attempt to portray the visit as a routine ‘promulgation of the
imperial favour’ to a small community of border barbarians7) could
disguise the fact that this was a deeply humiliating undertaking for Qiying.
He had, in effect, been sent for by Pottinger and conveyed from Canton to
Hong Kong in a British naval steamship to exchange the ratifications of the
Treaty of Nanking and witness the proclamation of Hong Kong as a British
colony. In between all the merriment, an exhausting programme of visits to
schools and hospitals, and especially to military barracks and military
installations, had been laid on for Qiying and his staff. The arrivals and
departures, and the exchange of ratifications and other ceremonies, were
marked with military bands, army marchpasts and seventeen-gun salutes.
Qiying and his colleagues were reported to be ‘particularly struck with the
rapidity with which our artillery-men could load and fire, dismember and
replace their guns’, and they expressed their ‘admiration of the appearance
and regularity of the men, as to their dresses, movements, etc.’8 The
message was clear: the British had possession of Hong Kong and they were
capable of defending it.
The British acquired the island of Hong Kong in 1841 by means of war.
They used the army and navy to defend it against anti-foreign uprisings and
terrorist attacks in the 1850s. They added the Kowloon peninsula to the
colony in 1860 at the end of another war, and in 1898 they acquired a lease
on the New Territories against extensive armed resistance. Colonial

22
Anglo-China

expansion through conquest was a common enough process in British


imperialism. Yet it was by no means the rule. Other British trading bases in
Asia - Singapore, Penang, Calcutta, and, in 1846, Labuan - were the
product of negotiation with local rulers, even though subsequent political
embroilments might have led to war. Hong Kong, in contrast, was seized
during an extreme international conflict triggered by a dispute about the
confiscation of an illegal drug. The dubious origins of the war, and the
confusion surrounding the initial colonization of Hong Kong were
camouflaged by an exuberant rhetoric that proclaimed the beginnings of
a new relationship between Europe and China.
The momentous nature of the great ‘collision’ between east and west and
the questionable moral position of Great Britain in undertaking the war
greatly influenced the way in which propagandists explained the new
British policy in China. The violent shock of war had, they believed, now
unlocked the hitherto impregnable Chinese empire to European trade and
influence. War had at last liberated the well known commercial energies of
the Chinese people from the oppressive restraints placed on them by their
Manchu rulers. The new colony of Hong Kong, its promoters believed, was
destined to become the great emporium of the eastern trade, a model of
British good government, and the bridgehead of a powerful civilizing force
that would transform China into a modern society able to ‘rank among the
nations of the earth.’9 The rapid movement of people and wealth into the
new colony, boosted by the economic demands and political uncertainties
of the war, gave administrators, merchants and missionaries good reason to
believe that Hong Kong would quickly become ‘a modern Tyre and one of
the brightest diadems in the crown of England.’10 Some of the colony’s
more imaginative enthusiasts began to refer to it as the new centre of a
large, productive and peaceful realm of free trade and cultural exchange -
as the ‘capital of Anglo-China.’
Yet, whatever promise Hong Kong may have initially shown, and
however close it may have later come to fulfilling the dreams of its
founders, its early years were marked by disillusion and disenchantment.
Hong Kong was not an ideal choice for an island entrepot. British trading
interests, like the theatre of war itself, were more logically located in the
rich tea and silk growing areas to the north. Its acquisition was not a central
or even an essential part of British war aims, which were directed at gaining
access to China’s existing mainland ports and not at the creation of a new
entrepot. Hong Kong survived its early years, not primarily through the
development of a free trade between Britain and China (which took place
slowly at the mainland ports), but as a depot for two semi-monopolistic and
still technically illegal enterprises: the importation of opium into China and
the traffic in labourers out of China. While the colony thrived in the early
1840s and 1850s as a refuge and military base during periods of outright
war or intense local disorder, it stagnated throughout much of the 1840s.

23
Founding a Colony

Throughout these early years the colonial government faced the task of
establishing control against a background of anti-British hostility among a
population who believed that, however decisive British victories might have
been in the north, they had been far from conclusive in the Canton region.
The high taxation and monopolistic practices necessary for supporting
Hong Kong’s expensive government and public works programme, coupled
with dissatisfaction among European merchants about the poor returns for
their heavy investments in land, bred disenchantment with the new colony.
The initial failure of the colony to attract ‘respectable’ Chinese settlers, the
attractions of the island to criminals and fugitives, and the arbitrary,
oppressive methods introduced by the government to control the island’s
immigrant population made it seem less and less likely that Hong Kong
would ever fulfill the vision of its founders. The British government had
committed ‘a great error’ in acquiring Hong Kong, the colony’s Treasurer
concluded in 1844. Yet it was still ‘under the delusion of being engaged in
founding a colony on the frontiers of China which will be a permanent
advantage to her trade - a lasting credit to her character - and a powerful
means of establishing and of extending her civilizing influence over one-
third of the human race.’11 The colony was, its critics were arguing a year
later, ‘a gross and scandalous delusion’, with ‘no facilities for extending our
trade,’ no attractions for ‘the better classes of Chinese settlers,’ and
burdened with ‘a crotchety, quarrelsome, meddlesome, officious governor,
who loves to play the Pasha.’ In short, it was ‘one of the most unenviable
transmarine possessions belonging to her most Gracious Majesty.’12
Those with complaints about the colony and its methods of government
rarely voiced their discontent without some reference to the extravagant
ideals put forward by the colony’s founders. Whenever critics of injustice,
arbitrary legislation, excessive taxation, corruption or abuse of power drew
attention to their grievances they pointed to the ‘practical example’ that this
‘little miniature representative of Great Britain, its laws, its manners, its
institutions’ had been intended to set forth ‘within sight of the Chinese
empire, and within ken of their admiring eyes.’13 Whenever the more
visionary governors, such as Davis, Bowring or Hennessy, saw grounds for
optimism, they revived these ideals. The contradictions between illusion
and disillusion, present perhaps in every colonial enterprise, were
particularly pronounced in early Hong Kong. This chapter explores the
early enthusiasms and the sudden disenchantment that surrounded the
founding of Hong Kong.

The Opium War and the British Liberation of China


The first Opium War was a series of hostilities by Great Britain against
China intended to redress the grievances of British opium merchants in
Canton and to place trade between the two empires on a more liberal

24
Anglo-China

footing. The war arose out of measures taken by the Chinese government to
end the opium trade, which, largely in the hands of British merchants, had
grown rapidly in the 1820s and 1830s. British merchants had for several
decades used opium produced in India to balance imports from China to
Great Britain of tea, silk and other commodities, claiming that Chinese
restrictions on trade and mistreatment of foreign merchants had rendered a
more healthy trade impossible. In the eyes of the Chinese government, the
outflow of silver from China to pay for the drug had begun to undermine
the Chinese economy, and growing addiction to opium threatened to sap
national morale. As Chinese officials debated how to address these
problems, the more belligerent among the British merchants in Canton,
the only Chinese port at which European trade was officially permitted,
urged a small display of naval and military strength to redress ‘the
intolerable indignities and impositions’ under whi&h they had suffered and
to force the Chinese government to allow a ‘reasonable and mutually
beneficial’ trade.14
The pretext for such a measure came in March 1839, when the Imperial
Commissioner Lin Zexu, who had been posted to Canton with instructions
to extirpate the opium trade, ordered foreign merchants to surrender all
opium on board ships in the Canton River estuary and blockaded them in
their factories until they did so. Six weeks later, having surrendered more
than 20,000 chests of opium, the foreigners were released. The British, led
by their Superintendent of Trade, Captain Charles Elliot, took refuge in the
Portuguese settlement of Macao. Then, having been driven out on Lin’s
instructions for refusing to sign bonds renouncing the opium trade, they
removed to the quiet harbour of Hong Kong, where they awaited the British
punitive expedition. The war fell into two phases. In the first, a large
expeditionary force from British India left only a few ships to blockade
Canton, then sailed north, a thousand miles away from the site of Britain’s
grievances, to the island of Chusan. In July 1840, the British expedition
seized Chusan, and used it as a base for the blockade of Ningbo and as
hostage for the diplomatic efforts of the British plenipotentiaries further to
the north. The military engagements during this part of the war were few
and brief. The city of Canton was spared with a ransom of six million
dollars raised by its principal merchants. Negotiations in January 1841
resulted in the cession of Hong Kong, a reopening of the trade at Canton,
and an indemnity of six million dollars in exchange for the restoration of
Chusan to the Chinese government.
Both Chinese and British governments quickly repudiated this agreement
and sacked their plenipotentiaries. Qishan (Lin’s successor) was recalled to
Peking in chains and charged with treasonably alienating Chinese soil.
Elliot was berated by the Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston, for settling
on such poor terms and for giving up the possibility of a wider trade with
the Chinese ports in return for the apparently worthless island of Hong

25
Founding a Colony

Kong. Hostilities recommenced on a larger and more destructive scale.


British forces retook Chusan in October 1841, and occupied Xiamen,
Ningbo, Shanghai and several other cities. By August 1842 they were
encamped outside the great city of Nanjing. The Chinese government sued
for peace and negotiated with the British the Treaty of Nanjing, which
opened five Chinese ports to British trade, confirmed the cession of Hong
Kong island, and provided for indemnities amounting to twenty-one million
dollars.
The intentions behind this violent assault on China’s coastal cities were
to punish the Chinese government and to further British commercial
interests. But, as the conflict expanded, and as British forces conquered city
after city, the war accumulated far more ambitious aims. It was still a war
of punishment, but it had now grown in the British imagination into a
‘mutual collision’ of world-historical proportions between two great
civilizations. The shock of war would, its apologists claimed, unclog the
channels for free trade, and with free trade would follow all the fruits of
European civilization. The defeat of the Chinese, or rather of their arrogant,
corrupt, oppressive Manchu rulers, would liberate the energies of an
industrious, commercial Chinese people and enable them to revive their
decaying civilization under western tutelage. ‘The submission which the
Chinese have been compelled to make, and which they may consider
humiliating, may indeed at first seem to deduct from our pleasure,’
admitted the Bishop of Calcutta in his Thanksgiving Sermon for the Peace
with China,
But even the Chinese will ere long recognize that a connection with England
and the Western world is the greatest o f blessings, and will be thankful for the
events which opened to them the floodgates o f European civilization and
knowledge, and raised them in the scale o f nations. For commerce itself will
be the herald for many various blessings. The arts o f life will follow in its
train, especially agriculture and medicine. The equal administration o f justice
will soon succeed, upon which there will be reared the frame-work of law for
the security of person and property.15

This sudden and forcible opening of the world’s largest, oldest and
hitherto most impenetrable civilization was, some suggested, a more
momentous event than Columbus’s discovery of America.16 The ultimate
consequences were beyond prediction or calculation. ‘Who can foretell the
mighty results which may be realized when the leaven of Western
civilization is introduced?’ asked the Friend o f China, the mouthpiece of
the new Hong Kong government.
If we were in the vein to vaticinate, we should be disposed to affirm the whole
world must be dominated, ere three Centuries elapse, by the Anglo-Saxon and
Chinese races. Which of the tw o will be the eventual masters?17

26
Anglo-China

The expanded conflict with China, had, the once hostile Bombay Times
acknowledged at the height of the war in May 1842, now ‘changed its
aspect and its policy’: ‘instead of consisting, as heretofore, of a little
peddling paltry buccaneering expedition for the redress of a commercial
insult, and the cementation of a commercial treaty,’ the war had become ‘a
means of producing the most stupendous effects on the destinies of man.’18
These heady speculations were spun out of the excitement of a rapidly
escalating and highly successful imperial war. They were also perhaps an
answer to the considerable disquiet about the morality and conduct of this
bloody, destructive and unequal conflict. The Opium War, ‘this disgrace
upon the British name,’ as Gladstone put it, aroused intense criticism in the
House of Commons, in the British, colonial and European press, and among
some of those who participated in it.19 Although presented as an expedition
to avenge violations of the liberties and property of British subjects, its
origins, a dispute over the importation of an illegal drug, were a source of
shame and embarrassment. ‘In this instance,’ concluded the Friend o f India,
we were clearly the aggressors. The war was brought on by a struggle on the
part of the Emperor to preserve his ow n people from the contamination of
that vice, which the enlightened nation of England was endeavouring to
encourage. The confiscation of the opium, if judged by the laws of England or
by the law of nations, was a just and not a criminal act.20

The shame was magnified by the extensive devastation and the effortless
massacres of Chinese soldiers by superior British arms in this earliest of
modern wars. Conservative estimates put the total casualties among British
and Indian troops during combat at barely more than 500, while some
20,000 Chinese forces were killed or wounded.21 ‘Britons never mingled in
a more unequal strife,’ commented one participant, ‘or in one more
dishonourable to their country’s fame.’22 The Times, a persistent critic of
the war, was ‘sickened’ by the reports of veterans of Waterloo ‘sweeping
away with cannon or bayonet crowds of poor pig-tailed animals,’ while
‘after a day of slaughter... a corporal and half a dozen privates comprise
the whole loss of the British Army.’23 Even Punch suspended its satire on
the antics of Chinese officials to protest against this ‘ghastly bloody farce,’
this ‘war of howitzers to pop-guns’: ‘we blush as Englishmen, and grieve as
philosophers, for the outlay of lead and powder in this fight for opium.’24
The rhetoric of justification and expectation woven around this slaughter
added to the original national grievance a strain of liberation imperialism
that permeated not just the outpourings of propagandists but also the
strategies and expectations of military and political leaders. The rhetoric
contained four broad assumptions, each connected to the other by a logical
train of events. First, China was in a state of decay and was being held back
from the progress and fulfilment of which it was capable by a corrupt,
oppressive and alien Manchu government. Secondly, the Chinese, who were

27
Founding a Colony

‘on all hands admitted to be amongst the most industrious, and the most
thoroughly imbued with the spirit of commercial enterprise, of any race in
the Eastern Seas,’ were receptive to enlightened western influence, and
needed only sustained and extensive contact with the west to help them
transform their civilization. Thirdly, free trade was the natural vehicle for
carrying the products, technologies, philosophies and religion that would
rescue the Chinese people from their thraldom and make them more like
people in Europe. Finally, given the stubborn, unreasonable resistance of
the Chinese government, the shock of war was necessary to save the
Chinese people ‘from the abominable tyranny which enslaves and torments
them’ and to open the channels for trade. The ultimate result would be the
conversion of the opium trade into a healthy commerce in British
manufactures, the transformation of a benighted oriental despotism into
a modern Christian state, and a productive ‘collision’ of civilizations that
would generate untold benefits for all of mankind.25
The drama and hyperbole surrounding this enterprise are also explained
by the dimensions of attaching the world’s largest and oldest civilization to
the ‘family of nations.’ The phrase that most often summed up the encounter,
‘China Opened’ (the title of a popular work of 1838 by Karl Gutzlaff),
embraced shades of meaning ranging from ‘China put on display to the west’
to ‘China forced open by the west.’ This ‘opening’ had both a practical and a
romantic appeal. The sheer size and population of China offered
opportunities that were almost beyond imagination. Following the signing
of the Treaty of Nanjing, China, with its ‘population of three hundred and
sixty millions of human beings’, a ‘third of the human race’, had ‘been
admitted, or rather compelled, for the first time in the history of the world,
into the family of civilized nations.’ Rescuing ‘the immense millions of the
Chinese population buried in the gloom of darkness, superstition and error’
set an unprecedented challenge to missionaries. The mere establishment of
trade at the five ports was ‘the equivalent of the opening of commercial
relations with four rich states, each as large as France, and with any of which
we have never before had any commerce whatever.’26 Some commentators
were recklessly optimistic: the Friend o f China predicted that, within less
than two years of the Treaty of Nanjing ‘the Tartar of Central Asia will trim
his beard with a Sheffield scissors, and every spinster in Pekin must have a
Coventry ribbon.’27 Others scoffed at such claims:
As a nation, the Chinese are without shirts, sheets, and table-cloths. It has
been suggested by some very careful observers of national manners and
usages, that the intercourse of the Chinese with foreigners will induce them to
adopt the use of these three articles - shirts, sheets, and table-cloths. What an
augmentation of the manufactures of cotton and linen will such a reformation
in domestic habits demand! Think of it - shirts, sheets, and table-linen for a
community of 360,0 00 ,0 0 0 ! H o w many of them can afford these luxuries?28

28
Anglo-China

All speculation, however, dwelt on access to the once inaccessible, and


sought, however erroneously, to bring within European comprehension a
distant land that had hitherto been buried in seclusion.
The ‘shock’, ‘collision’ and ‘opening’ images helped to portray the war in
terms of two paradoxical claims: the first, that, despite the extensive loss of
life and destruction of property, this was a war waged against government
rather than people; the second, that, despite the violence let loose on China,
British forces were the welcome bringers of peace and order to a society
collapsing through the weakness and corruption of its own government.29
As the conviction grew among observers that only the utter humiliation of
the Chinese government would yield lasting concessions, the overwhelming
force of British arms was increasingly presented as a positive factor in the
speedy accomplishment of British aims. After the burdens imposed on them
by their own officials and armies, and the ravages of the mob, Chinese
communities along the coast reportedly came to see British forces not as
enemies but as liberators, ‘not oppressors, but protectors.’30 Referring in
May 1841 to ‘the terrible proofs of our prowess’ in the early skirmishes in
the Canton region, Elliot wrote of
indisputable evidence of general confidence amongst a teeming, rich, and most
suspicious population, that we are understood to be the authors of their
returning prosperity, and their surest protectors against the infatuation and
oppression of their ow n Government.31

At Ningpo, later in the year, ‘the inhabitants threw themselves on our


protection, or pretended to do so,’ and declared ‘that their mandarins had
deserted them, and that their own soldiers were unable to protect them.’32
‘The speedy return of peace in China’, in August 1842, enabled
propagandists to depict the British expedition in terms of a ‘pacification’,
a ‘collision, modified and made pacific.’33 The mission was ‘one of amity,
although commencing with war.’34 The campaign medal, ‘instead of
exhibiting “The British Lion trampling on the Dragon,” as was at first
proposed,’ bore the inscription ‘armis exposuere pacem.’35 All that
remained, observed the sinologist and future governor of Hong Kong,
John Francis Davis, was for the British to persuade the Chinese government
‘that the same power which proved so irresistible in war will, in peace, be
exerted for the mutual benefit of the two nations.’36
The decisiveness of the British victory and the vistas of opportunity that
it opened up enabled even missionaries to speak of the war as a
‘chastisement’ necessary for China’s salvation.
The leaven of humanity - sometimes, in the present state of the world, to be
administered by the strong hand o f war, - so it seems - very often breaks up old
prejudices, and opens out the way for the milder and all-subduing influences of
truth - that truth which will and must eventually prevail over all error.37

29